21 November 2014

Editorial: Pakistan Courts Both US and Russia on Defense

By Ankit Panda

As Russia’s defense minister visits Pakistan, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff visits Washington.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pakistan for a day-long visit on Thursday. During his visit to Islamabad, Shoigu met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the two addressed several issues related to security and defense cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. The two countries will sign an important memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation that will form the foundation of their growing defense partnership. Although Russia is a major arms exporter to Pakistan’s rival India, it is looking to shore up its involvement in Pakistan amid that country’s growing appetite for Russian hardware. Most recently, Pakistan concluded a deal to purchased MI-35 Hind helicopters from Russia.
According to Dawn, Russia’s decision to court Pakistan as a defense customer was in part spurred by growing ties between the United States and India. Although Russia has been major military supplier for India — providing up to 75 percent of Indian military hardware needs in certain years — the United States has been steadily growing its defense partnership with India. With a government less committed to Indian ideals of non-alignment in charge in New Delhi, India has grown closer to the United States on a series of defense matters. In 2014, India became the largest foreign buyer of U.S. weapons, importing $1.9 billion in military hardware from the United States. In August, reports emerged that the U.S. had overtaken Russia as India’s top arms supplier over the past three years. Sensing an opportunity on the other side of the security dilemma on the subcontinent, Russia has chosen to focus its efforts on courting Pakistan. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Why China's South China Sea Diplomacy Will Frustrate Claimants

By Robert Farley

International frustration over outcomes in the South China Sea is a fine outcome for China.

What happens the next time people die for an island in the South China Sea? And what happens if some of those people hail from a great power?
Last weekend, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, in conjunction with the Army War College, conducted a negotiation simulation on crisis resolution in the South China Sea. The simulation began shortly after an incident between Chinese and Filipino ships resulted in the deaths of five Indians and 95 Filipinos.
The South China Sea simulation is the third simulation developed by the Army War College. The first two, on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and the Cyprus conflict, have become regular features at foreign policy schools around the country. The AWC regularly conducts these exercises in collaboration with several different schools across the country, as well as with students at the AWC.
Patterson engages in these simulations because they give our students the opportunity to develop negotiation, communication, and organizational skills, which will help them in whatever careers they pursue.  But the course of this simulation also illuminated some of the problems associated with continuing disagreements in the SCS. This simulation consisted of seven teams (China, the Philippines, India, Japan, the United States, Vietnam, and Indonesia). Each team had an advisor, usually a government diplomatic professional (including advisors from India and Canada). I advised the Chinese team, which began the game with one serious disadvantage: everyone hated us, and we had just killed a hundred people. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: China Responds to North Korea's Nuclear Threat

By Shannon Tiezzi

China will support North Korea against UN human rights investigations — but will not back a new nuclear test.

On November 18, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution recommending that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate the North Korean government for alleged human rights abuses. The UNGA resolution came nine months after a UN-commissioned report accused the Kim Jong-un regime of crimes against humanity.
As reported by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang rejected the UN resolution. Before the vote, a North Korea delegate issued a statement calling the draft resolution “a product of political and military confrontation and plot against the DPRK [that] has no relevance with genuine promotion and protection of human rights.” The unnamed delegate dismissed the report as “a complication full of groundless political accusations and contradictions” based on “fabricated” testimonies from North Korean defectors. The statement also warned that Pyongyang would “strongly respond without slightest tolerance to any attempts on the part of hostile forces to abuse human rights issue as a tool for overthrowing the social system of our country.”
After the vote, North Korea’s foreign ministry clarified that threat by promising a new nuclear test. In a statement, the foreign ministry said that the UN resolution amounted to a U.S. attack on North Korea’s government. Given this “aggression,” Pyongyang said it would be “unable to further refrain from staging a new nuclear test.”
China’s own foreign ministry was not pleased by that response. In a press conference, spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters that China has a “clear and firm position on the Korean nuclear issue, that is, we should stay committed to realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Hong also repeated China’s customary call for a return to the Six Party Talks to address the North Korean nuclear question. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: North Korea - Old Threats Meet a New International Attack

By Clint Richards

Renewed nuclear test threats are old tactics, as allies will keep Pyongyang from the ICC.

North Korea is taking its typical approach to international condemnation, by both lashing out at the West (primarily the U.S.) and reaching out to whichever ally is most readily available (Russia in this instance). It is an old game that has relatively few surprises left, as ballistic missile tests have become old news, and even its nuclear program has had three tests without triggering any kind of military response. While it may seem that Pyongyang has boxed itself into a corner with very few options available, the regime’s ability to sustain itself in spite of near total isolation is its ultimate trump card, as nobody seems have to the ability or willingness to force North Korea’s leadership to face the accusations brought against it.
This latest round of confrontation began on Tuesday with the passage of a UN draft resolution, which recommended that the International Criminal Court take up the issue of North Korean crimes against humanity, evidenced in a UN Commission of Inquiry in February. Pyongyang quickly responded, with a foreign ministry statement on Thursday saying “We completely reject the forceful passage of this resolution, led by the United State with the aim of overthrowing (our) people-centered socialist system.” Its next statement was equally predictable, indicating that U.S. actions “are compelling North Korea not to refrain from an additional nuclear test,” which it last carried out in late 2013.
Prior to the resolution’s passage, Pyongyang began laying the groundwork to ensure that at least one if its erstwhile allies on the UN Security Council will veto it this December. Choe Ryong-hae, now considered to be Kim Jong-un’s number two, traveled to Moscow earlier this week and met with President Vladimir Putin. He will also meet with Foreign Minister Servey Lavrov on Thursday. The reason for his trip is obvious, but it is the tempo with which senior North Korean officials have been visiting Russia and other countries of late that is noteworthy. As both Pyongyang’s isolation from its main ally China has lengthened and the likelihood of the UN General Assembly passing the resolution increased, North Korea has reached out to Russia, South Korea and Japan through high-level meetings. It has also made three high-visibility releases of U.S. prisoners and even offered U.N. officials the right to tour some if its prison facilities. None of these concessions stopped or diluted the resolution. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Is 2014 the Start of an Asian Spring?

Thailand Anti-Coup Protesters (File Photo)

By Nithin Coca

2014 has been an historic year for protests in Asia, where until now political freedom has lagged economic growth.

In Hong Kong, it’s a yellow umbrella. In Taiwan, the similarly bright sunflower. Thailand pitted yellow-shirts against red-shirts, while in Indonesia, it is the national colors red and white painted on faces or plastered on signs. In South Korea, it is more subtle – small, yellow ribbons and flags. Together, these symbols of different yet connected movements have turned 2014 into a banner year for protests in many rapidly growing and changing countries in East and Southeast Asia, and may foreshadow coming change in the region.
At a glance, Occupy Central in Hong Kong or the hunger strikes by families connected with the Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea may seem focused on specific concerns, relevant only to the people in that society. However, take a step back and the movements are, surprisingly, quite similar. Occupy’s focus is on Hong Kong gaining its long-promised democracy, but it is fueled by living costs, limited infrastructure, and rising inequality – the same challenges facing Indonesia and Thailand. In Seoul, initially it seems that protestors in the city center want justice for the hundreds of victims of Sewol. But what they are calling for – an investigation into what they see as deeply ingrained corruption and collusion connecting the ferry company, the police, politicians, and perhaps even the president – has implications that go far beyond a simple criminal case.
Thailand also saw similar slogans about corruption at both red-shirt and yellow-shirt rallies. “In [Thailand and Hong Kong] protesters are calling for accountability and greater transparency in the political and economic realms,” said Matteo Fumagalli, head of the Department of International Relations at Central European University.
The most dramatic protests took place this March in Taiwan, where youth stormed past police barricades and occupied the Taiwanese Parliament, in opposition to a trade deal with China that they believed with erode the island-state’s independent political identity.
Individually they are examples of social unrest, but collectively, do these movements herald something greater? Are they an Asian version of 2011, when protests in Tunisia spread into neighboring Egypt, Libya, and then throughout the entire Arab region. At the time it was seen as a sign that the Arab world’s citizens were tired of the same-old dictators and wanted dramatic societal change. Asia, too, faces a similar “Democracy Gap.” “In some countries in the region the growth of democracy has not kept pace with economic development. It seems clear that economic progress alone does not necessarily lead to democratic gains,” said Peter Manikas, director of Asia programs for the New Democratic Institute in Washington D.C. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Could Capitol Hill Derail US-China Relations?

By Shannon Tiezzi

A new report recommends Congress take concrete actions to alter China’s economic behavior.

On Thursday, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released its annual report to Congress. The Commission was created in 2000 to monitor and report to Congress about the “national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship” between the U.S. and China. Each year, the Commission submits a report to Congress that includes recommendations for congressional action. This year, the report included a number of recommendations that, if implemented, could overshadow the Obama administration’s efforts to keep U.S.-China relations on an even keel.
Historically, Congress has been fairly uninvolved in U.S.-China relations. Although many members of Congress adopt vocal positions regarding issues from human rights violations to the value of China’s currency, congressional opinion generally has little sway on executive actions. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which provided for a continued U.S.-Taiwan relationship even after Washington normalized diplomatic ties with Beijing, is the notable exception to this general rule. Even during the high point of congressional and public outrage over the Tiananmen Square incident, Congress’ bid to deny China Most Favored Nation trading status was diverted by the Clinton administration, which eventually dropped the idea altogether.
Given this history, we should remember that the USCESRC report will not automatically translate into congressional action, much less have a lasting influence on the administration’s China policy. However, its recommendations do indicate areas of growing concern within Congress, and an increased desire for Congress to take whatever action it can to address perceived imbalances in the U.S.-China relationship. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

20 November 2014

Think Tank: Australia, India and maritime security

By Anthony Bergin

In a historic address to Parliament in Canberra, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested both countries should collaborate more on maintaining maritime security: ‘We should work together on the seas and collaborate in international forums’. Modi noted that ‘the oceans are our lifelines. But, we worry about its access and security in our part of the world more than ever before’.

He’s spot on: the importance of the Indian Ocean can’t be over-emphasised. Over 55,000 ships transit through the Indian Ocean every year transporting oil, consumer goods and food, reflecting the dependence of nations of the region and beyond on this ocean. So Modi was right to raise the maritime security challenges faced by both countries, particularly the need for protection of sea lines of communication. (These days that includes ensuring global broadband connectivity via the network of undersea cables.)

Both our naval forces are effective, and they aren’t in competition with each other. Common maritime challenges include counter piracy, maritime safety, strengthening port state control, and search and rescue. In his Canberra speech, Modi also singled out the opportunity for both countries to respond to regional disasters: that should include operational aspects between designated coordinating authorities.

AUS: Australian Defence Force completes monitoring of Russian Surface Task Group in the region

Australian Defence Force vessels and aircraft have completed monitoring a Russian Surface Task Group that was operating in the Coral Sea to Australia’s north. The Russian ships did not enter Australian territorial waters and have now departed the Coral Sea.

The flotilla included Russian Federation Ship (RFS) Varyag, a Slava class guided missile cruiser, RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov, a Udaloy class guided missile destroyer, and two support ships, Boris Butoma and Fotiy Krylov.

The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, said that the ADF monitoring activity was conducted professionally and was effective.

“We planned and conducted deliberate operations with Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion aircraft and monitored the flotilla with HMA ships Parramatta and Stuart,” ACM Binskin said.

AUS: Maritime search and rescue an Asia Pacific priority

Defence force personnel from Australia are in China for Exercise Cooperation Spirit 2014 which begins today.

The exercise aims to enhance coordination and cooperation between Australia, China and New Zealand in responding to unforeseen disasters that occur in the Asia-Pacific. This year the exercise is focussing on a maritime search and rescue response involving the Australian Defence Force, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Captain Michael Harris (Royal Australian Navy), Commander of the Australian Contingent, said exercise Cooperation Spirit will enable Australia, China and New Zealand to enhance their ability to work closely together. This builds upon the shared experiences gained during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean.

“China, New Zealand and Malaysia were quick to provide maritime search aircraft and surface vessels in the search for MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean – proving that there is a ‘cooperative spirit’ in our region in times of humanitarian crisis,” Captain Harris said.

AUS: Meeting with Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces

Over the last two days the Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin met with his Indonesian counterpart, the Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces General Moeldoko, to hold the second annual Australia Indonesia High Level Committee.

Air Chief Marshal Binskin said Indonesia was an important regional defence partner for Australia for reasons of mutual interest and geographic proximity.

“As neighbours we share a common interest in the stability of our region and confront many of the same security challenges; including maritime security, terrorism and transnational crime. It is important that we continue to work together to effectively counter these threats,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.

“Our bilateral defence relationship has proven resilient over time, founded on close people-to-people links. These links are strengthened by a broad range of activities, including over 150 training positions offered to Indonesian military officers each year.

“Australia remains committed to a broad based, long term defence relationship with Indonesia, and we look forward to a busy engagement program in 2015”.

During their meetings, Air Chief Marshal Binskin and General Moeldoko discussed their priorities for the bilateral military-to-military relationship, and agreed on a forward engagement program including joint exercises, student and instructor exchanges, policy and intelligence exchanges and a regular pattern of senior strategic dialogues.